The SOMM Journal

August / September 2016

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Page 84 of 148

84 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2016 { on the floor } TIPS FROM GREG VAN WAGNER Van Wagner is completely dedicated to creating a guest-centric wine program at both restaurants: "A difficult and totally unfamiliar list is unwelcoming to the guest." Any bottle on his list can be sold as a half bottle, always for half the price. His favorite summer wines are white Burgundy and Premier Cru Chablis. In win- ter, he likes Barolo, California Cabernet with great bottle age on it and wines from the Northern Rhône. His favorite up-and-coming wine region is Santa Barbara: "Great wines at prices you can afford." Kunin, Vallin and Pence are a few of his go-to producers. The American winemaker he has his eye on is Jamie Kutch, owner/winemaker of Kutch Wines in Sonoma. He is committed to finding wines that "over-achieve for the price." The best value on the Jimmy' s wine list? A bottle of Domaine de la Romanée- Conti, which, while still at $1560, cannot be even found wholesale at this price. Pairing Wine with People FOR WINE DIRECTOR GREG VAN WAGNER, IT'S ALL ABOUT THE GUEST AT JIMMY'S IN ASPEN AT JUST 28 YEARS OLD, GREG VAN WAGNER IS A certified Sommelier who started in the F&B business at age 11 and has worked "nice restaurants" for ten years now. He is currently Wine Director of both Jimmy's, an American Restaurant & Bar, and Jimmy's Bodega, both in Aspen, Colorado. Since its opening in 1997, Jimmy's has been renowned for its culinary, spirits and wine pro - grams, and owner Jimmy Yeager has been recognized as one of the nation's leading experts on agave-based spirits. Jimmy's has long been famous for its Margaritas, but after meeting Van Wagner, almost two years ago, Yeager became committed to growing the restaurant's wine program under his direction. A former aspiring pro cyclist, Van Wagner got his start at 18 at Frasca Food + Wine in Boulder when Bobby Stuckey took a chance on him, given their shared passion for cycling. After several years at Frasca, Van Wagner moved on to Oak at Fourteenth, where he served as Bar Manager and further cultivated his knowledge of wine and spirits. Given his passion for cycling and backcountry skiing, he set his eyes on Aspen as a place to call home and joined famed hotel The Little Nell as Maître d' of the hotel's restaurant, Element 47, a James Beard nominee for Outstanding Wine Program. The opportunity to work alongside multiple Master Sommeliers and a Grand Award wine list deepened Van Wagner's passion for wine. He joined the Jimmy's family in 2014, where he has grown the beverage program to 650 bot - tles, with a focus on American wines, and is assisted on the floor by four certified Sommeliers. Yeager pays for employee wine coursework and frequently hosts staff wine and spirits education trips; there are currently twelve Introductory level sommeliers among the servers and bar staff. In a view that is perhaps a bit controversial, Van Wagner sees pairing a wine with a person's tastes as more important than pairing a wine with food. "I try to have something for everybody," says Van Wagner, "whether it's a funky, brett-induced Chinon or a big Napa Cabernet." —David Gadd PHOTO COURTESY OF JIMMY'S Greg Van Wagner in the wine room at Jimmy's in Aspen, CO.

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